SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. — On MTV's reality television show Jersey Shore, the Beachcomber Bar is a place where the clothes are skimpy and punches can fly.
But there's another reality in this resort town, which is both a setting and a state of mind on the show about eight buff, tanned twentysomethings and the havoc they create while living together for a month in a posh home.
As the show airs this month and next, the town of 3,100 year-round residents is hushed. Most boardwalk businesses are closed. The people around this time of year say this just isn't the same place as the one on the show, which was filmed in the summer when the population grows tenfold with families at the beach by day and a sometimes wild club scene by night.
Just as one group of Italian-Americans has protested, claiming the show gives them a bad name, many locals think it smears the community.
"You're trying to create a family town, and you got a bunch of kids acting very rude, and it doesn't create a good image," said John LaStalla, a 44-year-old native and municipal worker.
The stars, mostly Italian-Americans and only one from New Jersey, dance, pump iron and party — a lot. They work in a T-shirt shop — a little. Their specialty is drama, whether it involves each other, people they meet, boyfriends from home or moms.
Even before the show debuted Dec. 3, the New Jersey-based Italian-American service organization UNICO National called on MTV to cancel it, deeming it offensive and reliant on stereotypes.
Then the New Jersey Italian American Legislative Caucus sent a letter to the president of Viacom, MTV's parent company, asking that the show be immediately taken off the air.
MTV, in a statement before the lawmakers' letter was sent, said: "We understand that this show is not intended for every audience and depicts just one aspect of youth culture. Our intention was never to stereotype, discriminate or offend."
The cast members have gotten plenty of mileage out of their self-centered personas, appearing on the Video Game Awards and on Jay Leno's and Jimmy Kimmel's talk shows. Their show's popularity also has been picking up, going from under 1.4 million viewers for its premiere to 2.5 million for Episode 4.
The Beachcomber is as good a place as any to talk about the show. It's where cast member Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi was punched in a hype-generating incident, video of which appeared on MTV promotions but didn't air on the show itself. Still, manager Mike Carbone said a group of people came in recently and took photos re-enacting the punch.
Jill Hickey, 25, lives in a Jersey shore town 80 miles south — but worries viewers will still equate it with the show.
"They should call it 'North Jersey Shore,' " she said.